Three years of hard work have paid off in the form of enhanced protection for vulnerable roadway users as Senate Bill 5326 is past the legislature. And we’ve just been informed that the Governor will sign the Vulnerable User Bill on Monday, May 16.
So many good people made such an enormous commitment to the passage of this bill, and we couldn’t have done it without them. The Blacks, Norrises, Brulottes, and others lost parents, children, lovers and friends. They had the courage and conviction to stand before the legislature and relive their losses. We did this for them, for those who went before them, and those who may come after them.
This is their bill more than it is ours, and I was privileged and honored to be able to be their advocate on this issue.
In the end, this bill is about outcomes. Outcomes matter in Washington state in so many other instances. For instance, killing someone while driving drunk isn’t merely a DUI with a “tragic accident”, it’s vehicular manslaughter. Our laws distinguish between people’s intent, and the actual consequences that result from their actions. But because driving is such a routine activity, however dangerous, our laws were mostly scrubbed of serious penalties for causing injury or death.
The Vulnerable User Bill passed this year is substantially changed from the effort launched in 2009, when our emphasis was on restoring Seattle’s “assault by vehicle” ordinance. Not only wasn’t the idea of a patchwork of local ordinances a good idea, but there also wasn’t any stomach for criminalizing “simple negligence” of this sort in Olympia.
Penalties in the bill range from moderate to severe. One may opt to surrender their license and pay a civil fine of $5000, or one may appear in court and request the alternative penalty. Under the alternative, one would perform up to 100-hours of community service in traffic safety or driver improvement, complete a state approved traffic safety course, and pay a fine of $250.
The law will become effective in June of 2012 to give the State time to make changes to its ticketing systems and court computers. Cascade Bicycle Club will monitor its implementation and see how often it is applied to the few hundred incidents that fall in the grey area between an infraction and a crime.